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Barns are cold and drafty. Barns smell. Barns are messy and full of junk. So, why do we love old barns so much?

In this passage from his famous children’s book, Charlotte’s Web,  E.B. White explains why:

“The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell — as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.
“The barn was pleasantly warm in winter when the animals spent most of their time indoors, and it was pleasantly cool in summer when the big doors stood wide open to the breeze. The barn had stalls on the main floor for the work horses, tie-ups on the main floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the sheep, a pigpen down below for Wilbur, and it was full of all sorts of things that you find in barns: ladders, grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, lawn mowers, snow shovels, ax handles, milk pails, water buckets, empty grain sacks, and rusty rat traps. It was the kind of barn that swallows like to build their nests in. it was the kind of barn that children like to play in. And the whole thing was owned by Fern’s uncle, Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman.”

Another writer who loved barns was the poet E.E. Cummings, who wrote about his beloved Joy Farm:

“when my soul – my self’s own self –

wasn’t wandering pasture & woodland,

its home was the barn. Savagely hand-hewn

timbers(held together,as nearly as I could

discover,by sheer love; with a wooden peg

now& again for luck)supported this dark big

coolish haven of enchantment.”

 

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